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A Tech’s Boundaries

A Tech’s Boundaries

It seems like tech workers in the local church talk quite a bit about boundaries. Mostly that someone is always breaking them for you. Unfortunately, many of us are our own worst enemy when it comes to making and breaking boundaries.

I had a co-worker who was single. He also worked 80 hours a week – which might have had something to do with his being single. One day I asked him why he worked so many hours, since I knew nobody was asking him to. His answer was interesting to me: “I’m just going to go home and watch TV, so I might as well stay here and get something accomplished.”

This reminded me of another story.

I had another co-worker who was single. He worked 40-50 hours a week. One day I noticed that he was leaving right at 5 o’clock. I asked him where he was going, and he said he was taking a class at the local community college. And it started at 5:30.

There are a few reasons I like the second story better.

Outside interests.

If you are in church production, chances are you really love what you are doing, and your everyday work is also your hobby. Because of this reality, many of us spend all our time doing work. It’s not necessarily because we have to, but because we don’t know anything else.

This friend of mine decided it was time to develop other interests – something that could divert his mind from always thinking about work.

I love Winston Churchill and try to quote him whenever possible, so here’s my chance:

A man can wear out a particular part of his mind by continually using and tiring it, just in the same way he can wear out the elbows of his coat.

A man can wear out a particular part of his mind by continually using and tiring it, just in the same way he can wear out the elbows of his coat.

For Sir Winston, he took up watercolor painting. That helped to get his mind off the huge task before him. Not only did it help him when he was actually painting, but even as he was going about his day, he would wonder how he could paint a particular tree he drove by. This small diversion helped to make him a better leader.

Create a boundary.

The other thing I love about this is that he created a boundary for himself. He knew he had to walk out the door at 5 o’clock sharp on a particular day. Without something in the way to stop him working, he might have gotten into the habit of staying at work longer than he should.

My wife is great at helping me create boundaries. We have an understanding that dinner is at 6. This is my boundary. I admit, and she would readily tell you, I don’t always make it on time. But it’s the goal I’m shooting for.  I have a pretty good idea when I need to leave work to make it home in time.

It doesn’t always feel great walking out the door before the tasks are all done. But I’m a better version of myself when I have a life that exists outside of work.

I’m a better version of myself when I have a life that exists outside of work.

Define normal.

The times that I have blown through boundaries in my life are when I have agreed to do too much. A big part of it was that I didn’t have a firm grasp on what I could realistically accomplish in a workweek. Since I didn’t really know, it was difficult for me to justify saying “no” to whatever the idea was. Since my work schedule was already a mystery to my boss, it was difficult for him to accept “no” from me.

One day I sat down and figured out what I could accomplish in a “normal” week. This helped me judge what I could say yes and no to. If it fit into “normal” it was easy. If it fell outside of “normal”, I could bring it up with my boss and we could figure out what to cut out or how to change the idea to help it fit into “normal”.

Whether you are on staff or a volunteer, we all need to understand where our boundaries should lie and you are the only one who knows where yours are. By setting healthy boundaries, you will become the best version of yourself. The world needs this.

By setting healthy boundaries, you will become the best version of yourself. The world needs this.

So what outside interests have you been ignoring because you don’t think you deserve to spend time on them? What hobby could you develop?

What are some reasons to help you stop working: A standing dinnertime? A class? Deciding to make it to your daughter’s softball game twice a week? What is it for you?

Find a time to sit down and map out a normal week. Share it with your boss and your spouse. Let this be a guide for helping you set some boundaries.

About The Author

Todd Elliott

Todd is a writer, speaker and all around great guy in the world of church production. Formerly the Technical Arts Director at Willow Creek Community Church, he now strives to leverage his experience for the benefit of technical artists in the local church through coaching, blogging, and the First In Last Out Conferences, a gathering for technical artists in the local church.

2 Comments

  1. Greg

    Todd- do you have an example of how you laid out what you could accomplish in a week?

    Reply
    • Todd Elliott

      I started by keeping track of what I was spending my time each week and how much time it actually took. After a while, I had a good sampling of what a “Normal” week looked like, so that I could better judge what fell outside of that.

      It used to bother me, that I needed to keep track of how I spent my time, because it felt like a lack of trust from leadership. The reality is that my boss didn’t really know what I spent my time on or what I did period, so keeping track of every task helped him to understand my world a little more and it put some tangible handles on what we could actually achieve.

      Reply

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